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Does vitamin C prevent the common cold?

During the winter, many people fall victim to the common cold. You have probably heard about taking vitamin C when you get a cold. “Try taking a vitamin C supplement or go out to buy some orange juice since it is loaded with vitamin C!” Is this remedy true or just a myth?

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient to the human diet. The recommended intake for vitamin C is 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg per day for men. Vitamin C is an antioxidant. This means it protects our body from harmful particles called radicals. Vitamin C can also help with iron absorption, immune function, skin health, and bone structure. Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, including broccoli, strawberries, oranges, red bell peppers, kiwis, and Brussels sprouts.

Preventing and Treating the Common Cold with Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been a popular remedy for the common cold for a long time. However, research conducted on this claim has been controversial and conflicting. Research has shown that for extremely physically active individuals, taking 200 mg of vitamin C every day cuts the risk of catching a cold by 50 percent. However, taking this amount did not reduce the risk of catching a cold for the general population. A further review on the research has noted that there was a slight but consistent reduction of 8 percent in the duration of the common cold. The research translated this into a one-day reduction in the length of the cold. To possibly shorten the duration of the cold, one must be taking the vitamin C dose before getting the cold. Therefore, taking 200 mg of vitamin C when the common cold has already invaded the body does not help reduce the duration of the cold.

Better to Eat Foods than Take a Supplement

The question of whether taking a vitamin C supplement also lingers. According to the chief of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Bruce Bistrian, “It's better to get vitamin C from food, because you also get other important nutrients. Eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day for general health, and you’ll get enough vitamin C.” All in all, it’s better to get vitamin C from foods than supplements.

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